Metal Church revives the glory of the metal gods with their brilliant new album ‘XI’.
From the opening song “Reset”, you know you are in for something special from these veterans of pure American metal. A neck-snapping snare and punishing kick drums courtesy of Jeff Plate drive this speed-demon opener. Master riff builder Kurdt Vanderhoof sets the stage for an album full of outstanding songs with detailed riffs and brilliant chord progressions that your ears can get hooked on.
It is incredible to think that Mike Howe has been away from the band for 22 years, Since on this album, his voice is as dynamic and powerful as ever. One listen to “Killing Your Time” or “No Tomorrow” lets you know that Mike’s voice with its trademark snarling grit is the keystone to the vivid power of this new album.
“Signal Path” and “Sky Falls In” showcase the diversity and quality of Metal Church’s music. “Signal Path” is a straight-up rocker with a compelling chorus that will have your fist pounding into the air, while “Sky Falls In” is a mid-paced tune with plenty of bass thump from Steve Unger. Once again, the latter track’s chorus is mesmerizing, with unforgettable riffs. Vanderhoof and Rick Van Zandt complement each other’s playing with memorable licks and marvelous chords that create a feeling of expansiveness and depth.
Moving on, you will want to be in a car at high speed when you listen to “Needle & Suture”. The chugging guitars cruise upon a hammering rhythm as the vocals soar high overhead. “Shadow” by contrast is a sultry song with a hard-rocking groove that builds tension and intrigue. Malevolent arpeggios accompanied by cavernous drums set the stage for the monstrous “Blow Your Mind”, which builds into a tune of hammering intensity.
“Soul Eating Machine” is a nimble tune that shows how well Metal Church can thread the needle between headbanging metal and hard rock mainstream sensibility. As with many of the songs on ‘XI’, the drums shine and keep this song from sounding stale. The moody and sullen “It Waits” struggles a bit to create a sense of foreboding, but redeems itself with the faster-paced, galloping riffs and a superb guitar solo. The final song “Suffer Fools” closes ‘XI’ in a furious blaze of unbridled metal music, with muscular riffs and vocals that capture bone-crushing rage.
Bottom Line: Like their classic releases ‘Blessing In Disguise’ and ‘The Human Factor’, Metal Church delivers an album that overflows with tight, hook-driven songs exploding with ass-kicking metal music. ‘XI’ will become a staple in your playlist as it fills your brain with fist-pumping metal joy.